Thursday, February 10, 2011

Men in caves

Last night, I witnessed the tears of a man who had his own struggles, completely outside of myself and separate from those that have been consuming me. Because insurance sales are best done in the home in the evenings, I have not been able to attend my I Group since before my mother died in September. I had much to work on, but so did he.

The group is a weekly continuation of the emotional work wrenched opened and released during the weekend of the Mankind Project’s New Warrior training. Using the tools and vocabulary acquired in those days of initiation, the process of peeling layers is safe when held within the containers of these brothers and one is supported to go deep in ways that cannot be reached with a lover.

Ritualistic and sacred, both God-respectful and pagan in its ceremonies, one holds oneself accountable to himself and his fellow men, at these meetings, looking at the integrity with which he is honoring his mission, his root purpose for living this life. If moved, a man can risk his heart, stepping out of his comfort zone to explore the mystery of his feelings. Embracing the hunter inherent, the knife is turned upon himself so that he may bleed and be purged.

Immediately, I recognized how lax has been my practice in these several months to check in with myself. I have been a man of actuarial charts, commission rates and potential bonuses, not at all the spiritual seeker and inspirational warrior I like to believe. Counting the miles and calculating the ratio between members visited and policies sold, I have been distracted by the urgency of need and neglected the nurturance of my soul. More concerned with pocket than heart, the results have been decidedly unexciting and unprofitable.

Along the way this week, I considered all the effort balanced against so little in the account, compared the fulfillment to the flow of energy and considered I might as well be writing and sending words off to market, rather than spending so much time on the road hunting for elusive commissions. I must walk the talk.

In March, my daughter will play Rosalind in “As You Like It”, my favorite character in my favorite Shakespeare play, a strong woman of purpose. Moaning with shame that I cannot really afford the airfare to be in the audience, I realized suddenly I have the tools and talent to pay my way. If travel writing should truly be one of the genres I wish to pursue, a trip to Florida provides the perfect opportunity to whip out the pen. If I jump on it properly, I could even secure a solo gig for one evening, mixing music and words creatively to take me where I want to go.

So used to operating in this world on one level, it is difficult to rise up and see things from a different perspective. Even as we religiously attend our groups to peel off the layers, the skin grows back at such a doggedly determined rate, we have no idea there is a fresh coat of cells just regenerated to protect our accustomed beliefs and we stumble as usual.

That definition of insanity reasserts itself in moments like this where banging the head on a brick wall, expecting different results, only produces a bruised and swollen brain. The I-group holds a mirror to my face and helps me to see the lack of progress as a motivation for change rather than an excuse to collapse in discouragement.

Men listen and ask “why”, prodding their fingers into the wound instead of gently trying to soothe the pain. Ultimate love and deep caring are evident in the circle, selfish motives are whole-heartedly absent as they stand to support the man in the light who faces his shadow. They play roles and spot danger, surrounding the man’s concentration with a large container of focused energy so that he can do his work.

When it is over, we settle back into our normal lives and various relationships, renewed and recharged to face the challenges and embrace the rewards. Proud of our strength, humbled by our place in humanity, determined, mindful and accountable to a standard of our own integrity, we go forth to face our fears, forgiving ourselves with a knowing chuckle when our forehead bounces off those bricks again.

In the morning, I find new sources to submit queries regarding my trip. Reading over drafts of other stories, minor revisions improve the flow of several sentences and those can be sent out as well. Each member I see in my travels has real interest in the policies I offer and make follow-up appointments. On the long drive to one who was not even home after all, words to a new song tumbled around so clearly, I could pick out the chords in the comforting warmth of my home at the end of the day, not feeling like the ride was wasted.

Progress comes in small steps, no matter how much we seem to be standing still.

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